‘Administrative error’ forces second UCU branch to cancel strikes

Staff union steps in to try to protect those responsible for mistakes, as anger grows among membership

September 26, 2023
UCU picket banner placard
Source: Tom Williams

University and College Union (UCU) members have been urged not to name staff responsible for errors that saw the unintended calling off of strikes this week as it emerged another branch has also been affected.

Walkouts that had been due to take place at London South Bank University (LSBU) had to be called off at the last minute because the union accidentally sent a withdrawal of action notice to the institution.

A similar issue at Newcastle University saw strikes there also cancelled amid confusion over who was and was not taking part in what was intended to be a national action.

UCU has already called a review into how the mistakes were made and promised to ensure it will not happen again.

“We have apologised to our members at LSBU and told them not to take strike action after an administrative error we made left them open to legal action by university management,” a spokesman for the union said.

With anger building among the membership over the errors, the Unite union – which represents UCU staff – has issued a statement via social media, calling on commentators not to blame the workers involved.

“Unite UCU are truly sorry that this has happened. The consequences for the members affected must be devastating,” the statement said.

“UCU staff work extremely hard and diligently to support UCU members and we feel a collective sense of responsibility if things go wrong.

“We ask that individual members of staff are not named or blamed on public platforms. As the person with ultimate responsibility for staffing and operational matters, only the general secretary is in a position to reply publicly to UCU members on the substance of this issue.”

Unite added that it would be supporting any of its members called to give evidence to the UCU inquiry.

“We note that the general secretary has announced an investigation,” the statement continued. “As the recognised staff union we will be writing to the employer to ensure that agreed policies and procedures are followed and that Unite members are treated fairly and with dignity and respect.”

Of the 140 universities affected by the pay and working conditions dispute, 34 have gone ahead with week-long strikes, timed to cause disruption at the start of term. A further 10 are holding strikes on one or two days this week.

The University of Manchester UCU branch has become the latest to end its strikes after reaching a deal with management that will see up to 75 per cent of any pay docked for participating in the marking boycott earlier this year returned.

Academics had been out on strike since 19 September and were due to continue until 29 September but have now voted to call off the action.

A reballot of the UCU membership is under way, with the union seeking a fresh mandate that would extend the dispute into 2024.


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